Improving with Age
by Stuart and Jill Briscoe
Aging happens. Once you are born, the relentless process begins. And it seems to be happening to more and more people. The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services estimates that by 2030, there will be about 72.1 million older persons, more than twice their number in 2000.
In our youth, we can’t get older quick enough, but in our middle years, we stretch the definition of “prime” to match our age. Before we know it, we are heading for retirement age and that leads to “assisted living” and then old age. It happens—and it requires adjustments that we are frequently reluctant to face because of an unspoken desire to delay the process and postpone it altogether if possible. But despite our attitudes toward it, aging is not all bad!
The Apostle Paul wrote, “We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16). Certainly there is a “wasting away.” It hits you when you discover your “get up and go got up and went.” It presses home its message when you retire and downsize. Your memory fails you at the most embarrassing moments, and other embarrassments impede your stately progress through life. Then they take away your driver’s license and your kids choose your retirement home. It happens—and we have to get used to it. It’s called aging!
But it’s easier to get used to it if at the same time as the wasting away there is also a daily renewal that leads to a very definite “improving with age” in aspects of life that previously escaped our attention but which aging has brought to the fore. A quieter more leisurely pace of life does not have to lead to loneliness and boredom—it can be a pathway to peaceful reflection, deeper relationships, fresh interests and productive leisure. Your kids, observing the glad embrace of your aging status, may even remark, “Mom has taken on a new lease on life.”
So we believe there is a definite “upside” to aging as well as a challenging “downside,” although we think Paul said it far better.
Of course in the days when the downside takes over—and it will—we must remind ourselves constantly that, for the believer, the downside leads inevitably to the ultimate upside in “Glory.” So even in the hardest parts of aging, there is always hope and confidence, assurance and the strong belief that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.
Unfortunately, some people are so focused on “going to Glory” that they ignore the fact that they don’t seem to be heading in that direction just yet, and accordingly there is still lots for them to do before their translation. Too many seniors check out early and are more than happy “to leave it to the young’ uns” far too prematurely. (Conversely it must be admitted that some aging people are not prepared to relinquish control when necessary.)
Western culture has a strong youth orientation focus which can easily overlook the fact that there are some things that older people are far better equipped to handle than those who are younger.
This is true when it comes to grand-parenting—a special role that is desperately needed in a culture where marriage failure is pandemic. Nannas and Poppas need to be taking initiatives in our modern era and bringing stability and cohesiveness into families that lack both. Not only so, there are vigorous seniors who still care for their own aged parents while helping their own children who are busy producing their own children. These wonderful people are rightly called the “Sandwich Generation,” living in the midst of four generations! The same is true in the contemporary church. The strong Bible teaching on the title and role of “Elder” in the leadership of the church shows that the office was originally reserved for “older” people, on the assumption that knowledge plus experience produces wisdom, which the world at large and the church in particular needs in large doses.
One other thing. If the senior population is growing as rapidly as the number crunchers predict, it is reasonable to assume that the number of unreached people in the senior community is increasing, too. And the modern church needs to be stepping up ministries designed to mobilize seniors to reach seniors.
A healthy senior attitude should be, “I’m not what I was and I know I never will be again, but I’m not finished yet and I have lots to offer this needy world in which God in His wisdom has placed me and is keeping me here for a purpose which I desire to fulfill.”
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